The Hoh Rainforest and the Circle of Life: the Nurse Tree

More than any other attraction, the Hoh Rainforest drew me to the Olympic Peninsula. The drive from the 101 out to the Rainforest was beautiful. Once there I walked through the famous Hall of Moss trail, about 1 easy mile not suitable for those handicapped, and the slightly-less-easy Spruce Trail, about 1.2 miles, which I liked better. I also walked down the River Trail, far enough to say that I had been on it, with a straight face, while not claiming to have done it. The backpackers said there had been an avalanche, further up, that blocked access to the further reaches of the trail.

The spring-fed stream at the beginning of the Hall of Moss Trail was pristine, in contrast to the slightly  less blue glacier-fed water of the Hoh River. You can see the algae growing in the stream.

While everyone walks the Moss Trail, almost no one goes down the Spruce Trail, which smells like Christmas. There, I saw some wildlife, birds, squirrels, a garter snake, and across the river, signs where elk had been foraging among the red alder, but no elk.

The large root ball measured 19.5 feet across and was taller than that. In the rainforest, and elsewhere but especially in the rain forest, a fallen tree can become a “nurse tree.” Trees and plants root on the elevated platform in the race to the sun and feast on the nourishment provided by the rotting tree underneath. When you come across a line of trees standing on toes, the “nurse’ has rotted away, the only evidence of its life, the line of trees marking its grave. There were examples all around the Hoh Rainforest of nurse trees, the picture of the line of trees shows one that has disappeared into the earth. The circle continues, for while the nurse helps its adopted offspring to get a head start in life, I imagine, the nurse also provides access underneath the children for the fungus to enter, there to eat away at their insides and in due course, for them to fall, and to nurse a new generation of trees and fungus.

I very much enjoyed the Hoh Rainforest. It was everything that it was said to be. There are so many awesome places that I have seen in the last seven years. Can it really have been seven years since I started these adventures in 2010? So much to back-blog on slow days, and so many pictures and stories from my past to share in the future.



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